DALLAS – Daniel Zou of The Woodlands leads the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship by three strokes following an opening round 7-under-par 64 at Lakewood Country Club.

Zou earned his exemption into this year’s field with an Southern Texas PGA win two weeks ago. On Tuesday, the 14-year-old proved he deserved his spot. He birdied four of his first six holes and never looked back during his Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship debut. The high school freshman closed out his front nine with a birdie on the par-5 ninth to post a 5-under 31 at the turn.

“On the second hole, things started picking up for me,” Zou said. “My day started getting better as my putting started getting better. Putting kind of carried my round today.”

He didn’t slow down on the back nine. Zou birdied the par-4 10th, and despite a bogey on the par-3 12th, he pulled off something special just two holes later.

The par-3 14th hole was playing 203 yards with a gentle breeze off the left. Zou pulled a 5-iron with plans to find the center of the green. He striped it. The ball bounced once just below the hole and trickled in for his third career hole-in-one.

“I was just trying to go up there and make par,” Zou said. “That is a really tough hole with bunkers on both sides. That hole-in-one was just the cherry on top today.”

Zou came into this year’s championship with confidence. He won the 2020 LJT Spring Preview in early March at The Wilderness Golf Club, and he plans to stick with his game plan all week.

“I just want to play like it’s any other day,” Zou said. “I don’t want to play with a score in my head. I just want to play like it’s the first round again and reset.”

J. Holland Humphries, the No. 1-ranked junior golfer in the state of Texas, sits in solo second. He began his opening round stress-free. The 2021 Southern Methodist University commit carded back-to-back birdies on the par-4 third and par-5 fourth holes. He closed out a bogey-free front nine with two more birdies on the par-4 eighth and par-5 ninth to turn at 4-under 32.

“My ball-striking was really good,” Humphries said. “I only missed one fairway and hit every green.”

His consistent play continued the back nine. Despite dropping a shot on the par-3 14th, the Westlake High School senior bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 17th and closed out his round with a routine par to post 4-under 67.

“It’s awesome to just see everybody again,” Humphries said. “State got canceled, so it is kind of like our state championship.”

Sean-Karl Dobson of Austin is third after a 3-under 68, while Keaton Vo of Austin is fourth after a 2-under 69.

The 2019 Texas Junior Amateur Champion Zach Heffernan of Boerne, Andrew Spaulding of Spring, Jase Summy of Keller, Michael Heidelbaugh of Dallas, Vishnu Sadagopan of Pearland, Cole Sherwood of Austin, Preston Stout of Richardson and Evan Vo of Austin are all tied for fifth place at 1-under par.

Ranked as one of the strongest fields in the championship’s history, Round 1 at Lakewood CC proved to be a special day for everyone involved. It was the first competitive round hosted by the LJT since early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re excited to get back to playing golf and getting a little sense of normalcy,” Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “With that though, there comes some limitations in keeping all involved safe. The LJT has worked hard to limit the amount of touch points among all the players, staff, volunteers and spectators.”

Players, spectators and volunteers were required to follow specific health and safety guidelines throughout the day. The LJT provided hand sanitizer at water coolers, starting tees and scoring tents. Players were not allowed to touch the flagsticks and bunker rakes were removed from the golf course.  The driving range and practice putting green were monitored and limited to a specific number of players. Spectators were asked to practice social distancing throughout the golf course and the clubhouse remained closed to the public.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling to be back on the golf course,” said Jim Brown, former TGA President and longtime LJT Volunteer. “It’s great seeing all the people and enjoying the game that we all love.”

Lakewood CC is playing host to the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship for the nineteenth time. The field will be cut to the top 39 and ties following Round 2 on Wednesday.

For more information on this year’s championship and full leaderboard, click here.